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Grab a Book, Grab Some Coffee

With ten days until The White Rose Resistance 75th Anniversary, I thought I'd pop in and remind you that I'm offering free e-book and audio book copies of Resist in exchange for reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads the week of February 22nd. So, grab a cup of coffee and snuggle up with a free book this week!

(If you're crazy busy and don't have the time to read a novel right now, please check out the sign up form for other ways to commemorate the anniversary!)


P.S. I promise I'll be back with a writing/research update soon! 

White Rose 75th Anniversary Blog Tour

February 22nd, 2018 marks the 75th anniversary of the death of Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst, three members of The White Rose resistance who were executed for writing and distributing anti-Nazi leaflets during WWII. It also marks the 2nd publication anniversary of my novel Resist which tells the true story of the The White Rose resistance through Hans Scholl's eyes. Would you like to help commemorate and honor these heroes on this special anniversary? Fill out the form below to participate in the 75th anniversary blog tour!


Voices From the Holocaust

In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I put together this video to honor and remember the millions of victims whose voices were silenced.


“They Probably Deserved a Medal"

If you're a long time reader of this blog, you'll probably recognize the name Joe Leo. He's my favorite B-17 waist-gunner and a dear friend. In the summer of 2016 I was given the opportunity to fly in a B-17 from WWII. When I got home I called him up. “Joe, I got to fly in your plane!” The following week we met for coffee and pie to chat about B-17s. We looked over a model B-17 and identified the different positions—pilot, co-pilot, waist gunners, tail gunner, navigator, bombardier, radio man, and engineer. We agreed that neither of us would want to be the ball turret gunner, a brave soul who was scrunched up in a little Plexiglas ball on the belly of the airplane.

While I've shared WWII stories from Joe on the blog before, I wanted to post a quick story about the time he tried lifting a 250-pound bomb out of the bomb bay while flying over Germany. He told me this story before I flew in a B-17 so when I asked him to tell it again after my flight, I gained a whole new respect for what he did!

Joe is standing beside the window where he manned a waist gun.

Joe Leo flew fifteen missions as a B-17 waist gunner during World War II. But there’s one mission Joe will never forget. During a bombing mission over Germany the radio operator discovered that two of the bombs didn’t release. Since they were not allowed to land their aircraft with the bombs, Joe was asked to assist the togglier in releasing them. The two men balanced on the catwalk between the open bomb bay doors, Germany whizzing past 23,000 feet below.

B-17 with the bomb bay doors open. See the catwalk? That's where Joe was!
The bombs were held in the plane by a shackle which was controlled by an electrical system in the nose of the plane. The togglier thought the shackle was stuck. “I went in there with him and we tried to lift the bomb out. I think it was 250-pounder and we couldn’t move it. The bomb bay was open and there wasn’t enough room for us to wear our parachutes. But I had a good hugging on that support beam,” recalls Joe. “My recollection is that we shimmied that thing so much that it made electrical contact and he went back up and flipped the switch and the bombs went. We could see the bombs fall through the sky."

As the pilot of Joe’s B-17 said, “They probably deserved a medal, but all they received was our thanks and an exhilarating experience.”

I asked Joe if he was scared. He told me that he didn't really think about it at the time. He just did his job. That's why they're called the Greatest Generation, folks.


I'm Going on an Adventure!

Happy New Year, friends! As you may have noticed from my sporadic blogging, writing fell by the wayside in 2017. As the year filled up with other commitments and I didn't have time to write, I began to really miss the adventure that comes with researching and writing a novel. One of my goals for 2018 is to write the book I've been thinking about for two years—my Warsaw Ghetto Uprising novel! 2018 isn't shaping into a less busy year by any means, but I'm determined to carve out the time necessary to reach my goal and learn to be ok with writing a book at a slower pace. There's going to be lots of research and adventures involved which I'm excited to share with you!

2018 is a really special year to write my novel because this April marks the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. When the Nazis began deporting Jews from the ghetto to Treblinka, the Jews made the choice to fight back. They smuggled in weapons and fought the Nazis for 28 days. In addition to armed resistance, they also wrote journals, letters, poems, drew pictures, and collected stories which they buried on the eve of the Uprising. They were determined that even after their deaths, their voices would not be silenced and the world would know what had happened. 

I have the incredible opportunity to do on-site research for my book this July. I will be traveling to Poland and Germany with the National WWII Museum to study the Holocaust and 20th century Poland under world-renowned historian Alexandra Richie, DPhil at a private university in Warsaw. I will also be able to visit various historical sites in Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, and Gdańsk, intern at museums, and much more!

As you can imagine, this trip will be very expensive and the final payment is due April 2nd. While I'm working hard to pay for the bulk of my trip, I would be so grateful if you would consider helping me raise money for my airfare to Warsaw, Poland. 

If you donate $25 or more and live in the United States, I would be happy to send you an autographed copy of my WWII novel, Resist. I also have limited autographed copies of my novellas, It Took a War and Ain't We Got Fun available.

                                                                                  Donate Here

Regardless of whether you can donate or not, I hope you'll stick around as I begin this adventure! 


Tribute to a Paratrooper

Tony Zanzinger (1924-2017)
"I was out the other night and I heard our National Anthem being played and then I saw our flag flying. It was a sight I'll never forget. Looking at the flag I could not see the stars in the field of blue; instead I saw a picture of home and all of your faces. It sure does put a feeling in your heart. That's why I'm here, mom, so that I can help to keep all of you safe back home." - Tony Zanzinger in a letter to his mother

At a WWII event in 2015 I had the honor to meet Tony Zanzinger who served with the 501st PIR, 101st Airborne during WWII. After talking to him and hearing his incredible stories, I went home even more in awe of the Greatest Generation. I can truly credit much of my interest and admiration for the Airborne paratroopers to Tony. Tony's unit paralleled the 506th (Band of Brothers) as they fought in Normandy, Holland, Bastogne, and captured Hitler’s Eagle Nest in Berchtesgaden. I don't know how many people I told, "I met a paratrooper who played chopsticks on Hitler's piano!" He was truly a treasure of history, wisdom, and good ol' American grit. One of my favorite memories from the WWII event was watching Tony beside a 101st Airborne reenactor. I remember him saying, "It's like looking at myself." 

This picture of "Wild Bill" Guarnere and Tony Zanzinger just makes me happy. When Tony jumped into France he got separated from his unit. He fought side-by-side with paratroopers from the 506th and 82nd Airborne. Thank you to Tony's grandson, Patrick Bourque, for allowing me to share this picture. 

The world lost a true American hero on November 19th. Thank you for your sacrifice and service, Tony. It won't be forgotten. 


Operation Gratitude Collection Drive

Long time no post! Honestly, how does time go by so quickly? Anyway, here I am with a post about the Operation Gratitude collection drive I helped organize at the Eldred World War II Museum last weekend. Operation Gratitude is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that sends care packages and letters of appreciation to U.S. troops, first responders, veterans, military families, and wounded heroes. Their mission is to thank every American who serves. I'm going to share a bit about the collection drive and encourage you to host one in your community. You don't have to wait for a special holiday like Veterans Day to host an event. You can say thank you anytime of the year! 

Operation Gratitude has wishlist items listed on their website which is a good place to start. They also have certain care kits you can assemble such as The Patrol Care Kit, The Elements Care Kit, and Hygiene Care KitI chose the Elements Care Kit to keep the list of items needed more manageable for people donating, but everyone was very generous and donated enough items for various care kits!

We also made paracord “survival” bracelets. Paracord (parachute cord originally used during WWII) can hold up to 550 lbs of weight and gives the person wearing it 7.5 feet of cord to use in an emergency. Operation Gratitude includes a bracelet in each care package. Some of the ways paracord bracelets can be used are for building makeshift shelters, creating a harness to extract an injured person from a bad location, securing camouflage nets to trees or vehicles, extending a security strap or rope to reach and haul heavy objects, and to make a sling or splint. 

It gets more amazing. When you take out the nylon cords from inside a paracord the fine strings can be used as a trip line to secure an area, a sewing thread to repair gear, or emergency sutures to close a wound. But then it gets even MORE amazing. Paracord was even used to repair the Hubble Telescope in space! 

But most importantly, as Operation Gratitude states on their website, a paracord bracelet lets our heroic service men and women know we care, we remember and we appreciate them.

We also wrote letters of appreciation to our troops. A handwritten letter is great way to say thank you to our heroes! 

Ready to host your own collection drive? Check out Operation Gratitude to get all the details. One of their amazing volunteers will help you through the process!

Thank you to all our veterans and those who serve!